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NHS (U.K.) 

Holidays and parties mean we may drink more than we think

"The amount of alcohol people in England drink has been underestimated by the equivalent of 12 million bottles of wine a week," BBC News reports. It has long been known there is a big gap between the amount people say they drink in national surveys, like the Health Survey for England, and the amount of alcohol known to be sold in England.In this new survey researchers set out on the assump

Quarter of sun-exposed skin samples had DNA mutations

A sobering BBC News headline greets sun worshippers on the eve of the spring bank holiday: "More than a quarter of a middle-aged person's skin may have already made the first steps towards cancer."Sunlight is made up of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Low levels of exposure to UV light are actually beneficial to health – sunlight helps our bodies produce vitamin D. But prolonged exposure can c

Minor ailment scheme doesn't provide free Calpol for all

"Thousands discover Calpol has been free on NHS 'for years' as mum's Facebook post goes viral," the Daily Mirror reports.This and other similar headlines were prompted by a post made on the social networking site Facebook. In the post, it was claimed that all medicines for children were available for free on the NHS as part of the minor ailment scheme."I was in Boots yesterday buying Calpo

Is paracetamol use in pregnancy harmful for male babies?

"Paracetamol use in pregnancy may harm male foetus," The Guardian reports. Researchers found evidence that taking paracetamol for seven days may lower the amount of testosterone testicular tissue can produce – using human foetal testicular tissue grafted into mice.Low testosterone levels in male pregnancies have been linked to a range of conditions, ranging from the relatively benign, such as

Mildly cold weather 'more deadly' than heatwaves or very cold snaps

"Mildly cold, drizzly days far deadlier than extreme temperatures," The Independent reports. An international study looking at weather-related deaths estimated that moderate cold killed far more people than extremely hot or cold temperatures.Researchers gathered data on 74,225,200 deaths from 384 locations, including 10 in the UK. The results showed that the days most countries have the fewes

Links between hay fever, asthma and prostate cancer inconclusive

"Men with hay fever are more likely to have prostate cancer – but those with asthma are more likely to survive it," the Daily Mirror reports. Those were the puzzling and largely inconclusive findings of a new study looking at these three conditions.Researchers looked at data involving around 50,000 middle-aged men and followed them up for 25 years, looking at whether asthma or hay fever at st

Children of the 90s more likely to be overweight or obese

"Children of the 90s are three times as likely to be obese as their parents and grandparents," the Mail Online reports. A UK survey looking at data from 1946 to 2001 found a clear trend of being overweight or obese becoming more widespread in younger generations. Another related trend saw the threshold from being a normal weight to being overweight was passed at a younger age in younger generati

Stem cells could provide a treatment for a 'broken heart'

"Scientists believe they may have discovered how to mend broken hearts," reports the Daily Mirror. While it may sound like the subject of a decidedly odd country and western song, the headline actually refers to damage to the heart muscle. A heart attack occurs when the muscle of the heart becomes starved of oxygen causing it to be damaged. If there is significant damage the heart can beco

Bioengineering advances raise fears of 'home-brew heroin'

The Daily Mirror carries the alarming headline that, "Heroin made in home-brew beer kits could create epidemic of hard drug abuse". It says scientists are "calling for urgent action to prevent criminal gangs gaining access to [this] new technology" following the results of a study involving genetically modified yeast.This study did not actually produce heroin, but an important intermediate ch

No proof orange juice boosts brain power

"Drinking orange juice every day could improve brain power in the elderly, research shows," the Mail Online reports. Despite the encouraging words from the media, the small study this headline is based on does not provide strong evidence that an older person would see any noticeable difference in their brain power if they drink orange juice for two months. The study involved 37 healthy older

Drug combination for cystic fibrosis looks promising

"A 'groundbreaking' new therapy for cystic fibrosis could hugely improve patients' quality of life," The Daily Telegraph reports after a combination of two drugs – lumacaftor and ivacaftor – was found to improve lung function.The headline is prompted by a trial looking at a new treatment protocol for cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition caused by a mutation in a gene that normally creates a p

Does holding your breath during an injection make it less painful?

"Hate injections? Holding your breath can make the pain of jabs more bearable," the Mail Online reports. A team of Spanish researchers mechanically squeezed the fingernails of 38 willing volunteers to cause them pain. For one round of experiments, the group were told to hold their breath before and during the pain squeeze. In the second round, they had to breathe in slowly while the pain was

Single mothers have 'worse health in later life'

The Daily Telegraph today tells us that: "Single mothers in England [are] more likely to suffer ill health because their families 'do not support them'." This is a half-truth. The large international study – involving 25,000 people from England, the US and 13 other European countries – behind the headline found a link between single motherhood between the ages of 16 and 49 and worse health in

Cannabis-extract pills 'not effective' for dementia symptoms

"Cannabis pills 'do not help dementia sufferers'," reports The Daily Telegraph. Previous research suggested one of the active ingredients in cannabis – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – can have effects on the nervous system and brain, such as promoting feelings of relaxation. In this study, researchers wanted to see if THC could help relieve some of the behavioural symptoms of dementia, such as m

Could testing grip strength predict heart disease risk?

"Poor grip can signal chances of major illness or premature death," the Mail Online reports. An international study has provided evidence that assessing grip strength could help identify people who were at higher risk of cardiovascular incidents such as a heart attack.The study authors wanted to see whether muscle strength, measured by grip, can predict the chances of getting a range of illne

Study finds seasons may affect immune system activity

"Winter immune boost may actually cause deaths," The Guardian reports. A new gene study suggests there may be an increase in inflammation levels during winter, which can protect against infection but could also make the body more vulnerable to other chronic diseases.The study looked at gene expression (the process of using a gene to make a protein) in blood samples taken from 1,315 children a

Doctors issue warning about overtreating patients

"NHS tests and drugs 'do more harm than good'," is the headline in The Telegraph, while The Guardian warns: "Doctors to withhold treatments in campaign against 'too much medicine'." Both of these alarmist headlines are reactions to a widely reported opinion piece from representatives of the UK's Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC) in the BMJ about the launch of a campaign to reduce overd

Hormone oestrogen linked to male breast cancer

"Men with high oestrogen more likely to develop breast cancer," reports the Daily Telegraph.This headline is based on an international study looking at potential risk factors for male breast cancer. This is a much rarer cancer compared to female breast cancer – an estimated 350-400 UK cases per year for men compared to 50,000 cases in women.It is known that the hormone oestrogen can trigge

Scientists 'amazed' at spread of typhoid 'superbug'

“Antibiotic-resistant typhoid is spreading across Africa and Asia and poses a major global health threat,” BBC News reports. Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection. If left untreated, it can lead to potentially fatal complications, such as internal bleeding.Uncommon in the UK (there were 33 confirmed UK cases in the first quarter of 2015 and it is thought most of these were contracted abro

Claims a 'sweet tooth' increases your Alzheimer’s risk too simplistic

"Could cake and chocolate lead to Alzheimer's disease?" The Daily Telegraph asks.In a series of animal experiments, researchers attempted to see whether high blood glucose could be involved in the development of amyloid protein plaques in the brain; a characteristic hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. These plaques are abnormal "clumps" of protein that are thought to gradually destroy healthy br

Overweight diabetics 'live longer' than slimmer diabetics

“Overweight diabetics are 13 per cent less likely to die prematurely than those of a normal weight or those who are obese,” the Mail Online reports.A new study followed over 10,000 English older adults with type 2 diabetes for 10 years. It examined how their body mass index (BMI) was linked to risk of later cardiovascular disease events such as heart attack and stroke, and death from any caus

Eating little and often 'no better for dieters than fewer feasts'

"Eating little and often – like Jennifer Aniston – could help dieters achieve a healthy weight loss," reports the Mirror. Meanwhile, the Mail Online urges us to "Forget three square meals a day – eating six smaller portions is better for your waistline".But don't rush to change how often you eat: the claims are based on a tiny study that has been overstated and misinterpreted by the media. In

Media hypes molecular blood pressure regulation discovery

The Mail Online hails a "breakthrough in treating high blood pressure", saying scientists have discovered how the body regulates it, which could "slash risk of heart attacks and stroke".But there's a hint of hype around this news as, perhaps surprisingly, the research that prompted this story did not test any new treatments for high blood pressure.Instead, studies in the laboratory and in

Probiotic yoghurts 'may help' hay fever

"Is YOGURT the secret to easing hay fever? Probiotics can 'relieve sneezing and itchy eyes','' the Daily Mail reports. New research found initial, but not definitive, evidence that probiotics may offer some relief from this common allergic condition for some people.Hay fever affects around one in five people, causing frequent sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes. It happens when an allergic

Smartphone app used to scan blood for parasites

"A smartphone has been used to automatically detect wriggling parasites in blood samples," BBC News reports. It is hoped the customised device could help in programmes to get rid of parasites in parts of Africa.In certain regions of Africa, two parasitic diseases – river blindness and elephantiasis – are a major health problem affecting millions. Both of these diseases can be treated with a d

Infection clue points to causes of rheumatoid arthritis

"Infection could trigger arthritis," claimed a headline in the Daily Express today. But you needn't worry that a cough or cold will cause you crippling joint pain: the headline is an oversimplification of some fascinating – if early stage – research. The research in question focused specifically on the causes of rheumatoid arthritis – a painful long-term condition that causes swelling and s

Appetite for apples? How fruit sugars may not suppress hunger

Are you tempted to avoid eating fruit "because the sugar in it triggers cravings," as the Mail Online suggests today? If you are, it's worth having a look at some of the reassuring facts that can keep you chomping cherries and guzzling grapefruit.The news – covered by the Mail and the BBC – stems from a laboratory study of just 24 young, healthy volunteers. These volunteers were given cherry-

Heart failure drug digoxin linked to premature death

"A heart drug taken by 250,000 Britons can actually hasten death," the Mail Online warns today. An analysis of previous research on digoxin, used to treat heart failure and heart rhythm abnormalities, suggests that it can raise the risk of premature death.The analysis pooled the results of 19 different studies investigating whether digoxin – used in the treatment of heart failure and atrial f

New test could improve diagnosis of ovarian cancer

"New ovarian cancer test twice as effective as existing methods," The Guardian reports, after new research proved relatively successful in diagnosing ovarian cancer.This study hasn't identified a new blood test for cancer as such – instead, it is a refinement of existing diagnostic methods. The blood test looks at levels of the protein CA125, long recognised as a marker for ovarian cancer.

Replacing sugary drinks with water may reduce diabetes risk

"Swapping orange squash for a cup of tea cuts diabetes risk," The Daily Telegraph reports. This widely-reported news is based on a major UK study, involving around 25,000 adults, which looked at the association between drink choices and the risk of type 2 diabetes. It found that those who consumed more of their calories through sugary drinks, and those who drank more soft drinks or sweetened


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